2018. What a year.
It’s amazing to think that our family are just 19 months into the story here at the vineyard. With that comes a great deal of news and progress, so to cover all of the various achievements and plans thus far, each of our family have written a summary of the year.
Today, Tim summarises his 2018.
How to characterise my first full year at the vineyard?
Eventful? Busy? Varied? Stressful? Fun? Tranquil? Chaotic? Life-affirming? Life-changing?
Well, yes…all of the above. And much more besides!
Rather than give a blow-by-blow narrative of a very busy year (something Chris’s blog does very well), I thought I’d try to characterise it in a few highlights.
Some things I did
Ran the vineyard, without the safety net of my predecessor, Jonty: pruning 4,500 vines, planting, mowing, spraying, canopy management.
Brought in the biggest, and best, harvest in Astley Vineyard’s recent history (over 13 tonnes, 50% more than average).
Chopped down and processed 50 trees as part of our woodland management programme.
Learnt to drive a forklift truck (and 20 minutes later unloaded our winery tanks from a Slovenian lorry).
Project managed the design, construction and commissioning of our visitor centre and winery.
Unblocked the drains of the aforementioned buildings.
Built a bridge and two flights of steps in our woodland.
Gave countless vineyard tours and after dinner speeches.
Became a general agricultural labourer.
Lost a stone in weight, by being on my feet all day most of the year.
Grew a beard.
Smiled (a lot).
Some things I didn't do
Set foot in an office, a boring meeting, or a tube train.
Long distance commuting.
Chop off any extraneous limbs with the chainsaws.
Persuade anybody else to share tractor driving duties.
Miss the old day job.
Sack any of my new co-workers, though there have been times…
Have a lie-in.
The best bits?
A “clear round” on the tractor: no posts hit, no plants damaged. An increasingly regular occurrence, I’m glad to say. But the first clear round was the cause of much celebrating!
The post-harvest evening of wine, mince pies and carols with almost 50 of our lovely pickers. Watching them make new friendships, rekindling the memories of a superb harvest.
Switching on the press for the first time and making the very first all-Astley wine. This followed many minor triumphs such as working out how the pumps, de-stemmer, and, in particular, the 3 phase power booster worked. Very satisfying for a non-technical, non-handyman ex-accountant!
Sharing the “view from my office window” (ie the vista from the vineyard) with tour groups: always made me remember how lucky I was to be living the dream.
The worst bits?
Battling with suppliers to get the winery commissioned in time for harvest: the last component arrived 90 minutes before the first grapes went into the press. Talk about Just-in-Time…
Bloomin’ tractor breakdowns. Getting covered in oil, spray, hydraulic fluid, diesel, grease. A pretty regular occurrence from Roderick, our 50 year old Massey 135. We gave him a thorough overhaul at the end of the season, so hopefully he’ll behave a bit better next year.
Making sense of 50 year old vines: trying to prune them in accordance with the textbook, when generations of previous pruners seem to have let their imaginations run riot!
The year in microcosm?
If there was one day which typified the whole year for me, it was a day in the middle of our harvest in early October. Bright, sunny and warm. A team of happy pickers. The whole family bustling around in winery, vineyard and visitor centre. A massive harvest of high quality grapes. Then a wine and cheese lunch with the picking team. Then two separate grape pressings and associated winery cleaning into the early evening. Then retire to the pub for a well earned pie and pint. Tired but happy. Just about sums up the whole year.